This exhibition is a novel departure from the themes previously explored by the Toy Department, which have focussed on different types of toys. Although Another story! 50 years of creation at L’Ecole des Loisirs does indeed feature toys and books, the accent here is on the artwork. L’Ecole des Loisirs’ determination to publish books of lasting interest that will become classics echoes the Toy Department’s commitment to the same public: today’s children and all adults who are still children at heart.
The Ecole des Loisirs story began in 1965, when its founders, Jean Fabre, Jean Delas and Arthur Hubschmid, then working for Les Éditions de l’École, saw the need for illustrated books that would be more attractive to children beginning to read. Their aim was to awaken children to literature in an intuitive manner, compensating for the limits of contemporary schoolbooks with more playful and pedagogically-based visual methods using images to convey the power of the narrative as much as the text itself. Encouraged by their increasing popularity in France in the late 1970s, L’Ecole des Loisirs decided to broaden its scope and create collections for adolescents and young adults.
The exhibition begins with a display in which four author-illustrators reveal their creative universes in playlets featuring their characters: Stephanie Blake’s Simon the Super Rabbit, Jeanne Ashbé’s spider, Kimiko’s Croque Bisous and Dorothée de Monfreid’s Achille the crocodile.
The exhibition continues with a mobile, animated installation specially created by Tomi Ungerer, inviting visitors to discover his famous Three Robbers. Toys created by him, from the Musée Tomi Ungerer-Centre International de l’Illustration in Strasbourg, are also on display. So that all visitors, especially children, can have fun and participate fully in the exhibition, Claude Ponti has created an extraordinary interactive machine around his star character, Blaise the masked chick. The artists and illustrators Nadja and Grégoire Solotareff have recreated their studio so that everyone can immerse themselves in their working environment and creative process.
A display highlights drawings of toys by eight artists, including Soledad Bravi, Matthieu Maudet and Michel Gay, featuring a rocking horse, a black panther soft toy and a Jeujura wooden chalet. Some of these illustrators are showing their own childhood toys – the little train Philippe Dumas’ father made for him when he was a little boy and Audrey Poussier’s pink rabbit – while others are on display with a selection of toys from the Arts Décoratifs collection.
The exhibition ends with three carrousels featuring characters such as Kitty Crowther’s Annie du lac and Poka & Mine. Another display, by Rascal, brings together some of L’Ecole des Loisirs’ most famous novels.
Throughout the exhibition, visitors can stop at reading corners, where young readers can discover Ecole de Loisirs books for the first time and nostalgic parents can re-immerse themselves in childhood memories or admire some sixty original drawings, period posters from the museum’s archives and two frescoes by Philippe Dumas and Chen Jiang on the Toy Gallery’s walls.
This exhibition reveals the inventiveness, quality and timelessness of an extraordinary literary legacy that continues to captivate readers young and old, revealing their favourite authors in a new creative context, ranging from their books to three-dimensional pieces.